In the backdrop of a series of amazing ODI victories, Bangladesh’s performance in Chittagong yesterday might not have left everyone at the edge of their seats.
But let’s pause for a bit and try to grasp the intensity of the scenario.
Here was a side that had been repeatedly criticised and thwarted for their bowling attack in Test cricket. In fact, the last time Bangladesh bundled out a top-eight ranked side for a score below 250 was way back in October 2011, when the West Indies gave in for 244.
After that, the performance graph witnessed a downward trend with teams almost regularly posting scores above 500 against Bangladesh.
And so, when the most highly rated Test team in the world surrendered for a paltry 248 at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium yesterday, it was a sight to behold.
The most encouraging aspect for the hosts yesterday was perhaps the fact that there was no particular hero that could be credited for Bangladesh’s emphatic display. Yes, the wonder boy from the quiet corner of Satkhira, Mustafizur Rahman — who became the 78th player to don Bangladesh Test cap — did mesmerise everyone again with a brilliant four-wicket haul, but that effort would have gone down the drain without the pressure created from his pace-partner Mohammad Shahid.
The bowler bowled nine maidens in 17 overs and checked the run-flow at one end. His figures would have been much better had Imrul Kayes caught both the opportunities that came off his bowling in the slip cordon.
And then there was Jubair Hossain, whose loopy turners made life difficult for the visitors. His three wickets might have just included the tail, but ask the top-order batsmen and they will probably tell you that they were sweating bullets while facing the leg-spinner.
The Proteas just couldn’t carry on with their partnerships; that was the story of the day. Apart from two half-century stands for the first two wickets, their batsmen couldn’t do much on the slow and low Chittagong track.
After Stiaan van Zyl was caught behind in the 14th over, the visitors rode on a good stand between Dean Elgar and the in-form Faf du Plessis under a surprisingly clear and bright sky.
At lunch they were at a relatively comfortable 104 for 1. However, that’s when Shahid and the bowlers put their plan in motion. Sticking to an immaculate line and length, Shahid bowled five maidens in between overs 30 and 38. In fact, he didn’t give a single run in his third spell, which was of five overs.
The hosts had given away just 28 runs in 16 overs after lunch and the pressure eventually got to the visitors.
Taijul Islam got Elgar caught behind down the leg-side in the 47th over and a few balls later Shakib Al Hasan trapped du Plessis in front of the wicket with an arm-ball that stayed a bit low.
From a 104 for 1, the visitors suddenly slumped to a 136 for 3. Still, they looked good with the ever dependable Hashim Amla and newbie Temba Bavuma stroking the ball around.
At 173 for 3, it seemed as though the visitors were gradually taking the advantage away from the hosts, but that’s precisely when Mustafizur unleashed his magic.
With a slightly older ball in the 60th over, the left-arm pacer destroyed South Africa’s middle order. He first removed Amla, who attempted to go for a drive in a bid to get back the run-flow and edged one to the keeper.
The very next ball saw his cutter jam into JP Duminy’s pads. While the umpire refused to give that one out, the review went in favour of the hosts.
A ball later the left-armer fired in an in-swinger that uprooted Quinton de Kock’s stumps. Mustafizur, who hadn’t received a wicket in his first 13 overs, was back in his elements, childishly clapping away to glory.
That over changed the complexion of the game. Jubair came in next and got Vernon Philander caught in the slips in the 71st over.
His two other wickets came in a slightly bizarre manner. He bowled a half-tracker to Simon Harmer in the 80th over. Harmer absolutely creamed that with the middle of his bat. To his surprise though, he found that the ball only travelled as far as Mominul Haque at short-leg.
Mominul, who was actually trying to evade the ball, somehow got stuck to it. A similar mid-pitch delivery got Dale Steyn caught at mid-off.
Eventually the visitors were bundled out in 83.4 overs when Bavuma was caught at deep mid-wicket off Mustafizur. Bavuma, who scored a half-century, seemed the most composed batsman of the lot.
With a disciplined bowling performance on Day One of the Test, Bangladesh have given themselves a rare opportunity of taking control of a Test match. However, much like the ODIs and the T20Is, the ball now lies in Bangladesh batsmen’s court.